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Nobody's Fool
1994 - R - 112 Mins.
Director: Robert Benton
Producer: Scott Rudin and Arlene Donovan
Written By: Robert Benton
Starring: Paul Newman, Dylan Walsh, Jessica Tandy, Melanie Griffith, Bruce Willis, Gene Saks, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Review by: Carl Langley

What, you want me to flash you or something?
You have to sit and look at the screen in awe wondering where this old man came from. Paul Newman returns to his masterful character developing form in Nobody’s Fool after a few years absence. The film, which was written and directed by Robert Benton (Kramer vs. Kramer), follows the latter days of Sully, a responsibility dodger and heavy drinker. This character vaguely resembles the one Newman portrayed in the 1963 film Hud; the obnoxious and ruthlessness are similar. But he has this distinctive way to help us remember each character individually; that is what makes Newman so extraordinary good.

Fathers who leave their children when they are young usually cannot score any redemption, but this is not the case with Sully. His grown son (Dylan Walsh) has returned to town along with his little boy because his marriage is falling apart. Sully is forced to face responsibility once again and decides this time not to turn his back and run. His son needs his help and Sully wants to be their for his boy and his grandson. Also, while Sully is living in the room above eighth grade schoolteacher, Miss Beryl (Jessica Tandy in one of her last roles), he sparingly does jobs for his construction boss, Carl (Bruce Willis), with his mentally challenged co-worker (Pruitt Taylor Vince). He does not appreciate his boss and takes his vengeance out by lustfully flirting with his wife, Toby (Melanie Griffith).

Nothing really exciting occurs throughout Nobody’s Fool, but there is a considerable amount of change in character and that is where its richness lies. The straightforward relationships between the characters - actually between Sully and everyone else – are at the heart of Benton’s writing and direction and he wisely focuses on the main characters and never wanders too far away to pointless scenes involving extras. Sully’s compassion for Miss Beryl is facetiously sweet, which can also be said with his kinship with Toby. Sully and Carl enjoy an ongoing struggle with possession of a snowblower, taking turns stealing it from each other. Even the minor characters, such as the dastardly graceless town cop (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), bring out Sully’s fully developed character by the way they interact.

Based on the novel written by Richard Russo, Nobody’s Fool, overall, is a heartwarming tale. Newman’s performance adds icing to the multi-layered cake. The material is no cutting edge to Newman; his portrayals of the drunken, immature grown-up type have garnered him several Oscar nominations. His pride cannot be battered and he attempts to settle his minor indiscreetness. As mentioned before, Paul Newman is not walking on unfamiliar territory; Hud and Eddie Nelson mirror Sully. It is just that Newman was in his thirties before and now he is in late seventies, still collecting nominations.
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

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